Higher Education

Higher Education

BA or BSc Economics: What is a better choice

PUBLISH DATE 17th June 2019

Both courses are Math-intensive, the only difference is in their nomenclature with no major difference in the course content, say academicians

Bachelor of Arts-BA-(Hons) Economics and Bachelor of Science -BSc-(Hons) Economics may have thrown aspirants into a quandary over the intrinsic difference between the two, but academicians claim the difference lies in the nomenclature.

There is no major academic difference between the two. "The distinction is not in real terms and a BSc (Hons) Economics is more an offshoot of the British colonial system of education," says Ranjan Nag, associate professor, St Xavier's College, Kolkata, which offers BSc (Honours). In most universities, Economics is part of a BA (Hons) degree programme, says Nag.

Agrees Shailender Swaminathan, associate dean, School of Liberal Arts and Basic Sciences, SRM AP, Amaravati, which offers BA (Hons) Economics, "In England, most universities offer BSc Economics. Since the country is known to be the birthplace of Economics, most nomenclatures are acquired from there."

"A BSc (Economics) course would be Math-intensive and have a lot of Statistics too, but I think that must be true of any good undergraduate Economics programme. Hence, the difference between the BA and BSc Economics is often quite subtle. In India, most programmes offer a BA in Economics but it comes down to semantics. One can offer a BA in Economics with a Math-heavy curriculum--nothing prevents us from doing that," Swaminathan adds.

Math a key requisite

"Economics in terms of its intricate details cannot be understood without a proper understanding of Math and Statistics, which explains why students wanting to enrol for BSc Economics should either be from a pure science background at the +2 level or they should have studied Commerce with Economics and Math as compulsory subjects," says Nag.

"Even in BA (Hons) Economics, the coursework does involve a lot of Statistics and certainly some Math. The reason for that is, economic models are very precise in their predictions and one needs Math in order to reach that level of precision. Similarly, in this era of super-fast computers and large data sets, the importance of Statistics is growing exponentially. Apart from Math and Statistics, the curriculum includes an understanding of text-bookish models in microeconomics and macroeconomics," says Swaminathan. Similarly, a student of BSc in Economics would also have to study microeconomics, topics in development economics, input-output analysis, money and finance, among others. If students were to study BA Economics on the assumption that it is purely an Arts subject, they would be in for a surprise.

"In fact, students from a Science background can enrol and are likely to do well. Economics as a discipline is a social science and many empirical applications require the kind of rigour necessary for pure science," Swaminathan says.

Career trajectory

Both academicians say that the stream is ideal for careers in the Civil Services. Economics also sets students up for a variety of exciting career options in advanced studies, academia, in public policy and corporate jobs post an MBA.

New age elements

Despite a traditional discipline, data science gets students to bring numbers to bear on verifying the usefulness of the theory. Economics students must therefore be good at programming- it is a handy skill to have.

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